How to Take Criticism and Turn it Into Confidence


No one enjoys being criticized, being told that our efforts fell short or that we’re flawed in some way. Who wants that? But like it or not, criticism (*the constructive kind) is essential. It’s part of how we learn, grow and improve.

I credit much of my success in life to embracing feedback from those caring and bold enough to be honest and upfront with me. Their criticisms weren’t always easy to receive, especially when harshly delivered, blunt or seemingly negative. In fact, there were plenty of times I was hurt, insulted and felt ‘hated on’.

However, once my resistance subsided and emotions were calm, I took what was valuable to help me grow, course correct, think broader and excel. As a result, my self-awareness and confidence grew, and eventually led to me seeking higher education and becoming a trusted human resources executive, guidance counselor, coach and leader.

What I’ve learned from my own experience and others is that we often learn more from feedback than praise or success. So, I want to share with you the six ways you can take criticism and turn it into confidence:

Consider the source.

There’s a difference in a person who’s critical and someone who genuinely wants to see you win. Consider the source. Who’s offering the feedback? Do you value their opinion or respect them as a person? Are they successful in some regard? Are they where you aspire to be? Will the feedback help you in some way? Will it eventually build your confidence? When considering the source, ask yourself are they sincere or manipulative. Being solid on who you are will help you discern the motives of others.

Check in with yourself.

How do you feel? Name the emotions you’re feeling when you’re receiving feedback. For example, are you feeling angry, rejected, ashamed, hurt? Then ask yourself why you are feeling this way. After you’ve dealt with your emotions, ask yourself is the feedback true on some level? Have you heard similar feedback before? Feel empowered to ask clarifying questions, such as, ‘give me an example or describe the instance when or where I did this or that’. Having concrete details will help you understand the others’ point of view, whether you think it’s right or not and help you focus your self improvement efforts.

Develop a growth mindset.

Growth minded people tend to value feedback, see it as a gift, and thank the person for providing it. People, including myself, have spent thousands of dollars on coaches, mentors, therapists, etc. to be more confident, self-aware, mindful and insightful. So why not accept the gift of free feedback, with your renewed mindset. Avoid sharp and instant reactions. Pump your brakes on getting defensive but rather self reflect to determine whether or not there’s truth or validity in it. Accept what’s relevant to improve and grow, and disregard the rest. When you use the relevant to make your skills, performance or self better, it builds self-confidence. This should be your only focus, making yourself better and more confident, and growing a few steps out of your comfort zone.

Assume positive intent.

Even if feedback appears critical because you’re not a fan of the source or they’re not communicating with care, assume positive intent. Assume the feedback is coming from a good place and has your best interest in mind. If delivery is a barrier for you, try your best to rise above it to hear what is being communicated to you. Again, take what’s relevant and disregard the rest. You don’t want to reject your personal or professional growth because you feel temporarily offended.

Build Your Confidence.

People are reluctant to give you feedback, especially negative or corrective information. Generally to get it, you must ask for it. Seeking feedback, negative or positive, increases self-awareness and self-knowledge. Self-knowledge, according to research, is strongly related to success in life and work. Defensiveness can be a major blockage to self-knowledge and self-confidence.

Resisting feedback can leave you feeling insecure because you begin to doubt yourself and question the intentions of others, become disengaged, thereby placing yourself in an unnecessary self-defeating mindset. This diminishes true confidence instead of building it. I encourage you to let down your guard and be open to feedback. You can handle it and will be better and more confidence because of it.

Bottom line is this:

There’s a cost to growth.

One of the best—and often necessary—ways to develop self-awareness is by getting feedback from others. Increased self-awareness, in turn, is the gateway to personal development and confidence. Confidence allows you to take your life or career to the next level. You’re more willing to stretch yourself and move out of your comfort zone. By expanding you become even more confident, successful and effective in discovering your passions and achieving your goals. Feedback should empower not dis-empower.

Today, I challenge you to ask someone for feedback or constructive criticism that relates to an area of your life you want to improve. For example, if you’re being overlooked for a promotion or leadership role, ask for feedback or concrete examples of how you can position yourself for a promotion. Another example, if you find it hard to establish or maintain relationships, ask a few people for five words they would use to describe your personality, the good and the bad.

Don’t judge the responses; don’t react. Say thank you, take it in and engage in self-reflection.

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© 2018 Fay Ferguson, Epic Life by Choice, LLC All Rights Reserved